GP Seattle went off big. With over 1100 participants at the main event alone, Tacoma, WA definitely experienced a ground swell of competitive Magic players from all over the world.
I arrived in Tacoma–about 30 min outside of Seattle–at 5:30 pm Friday, to find that already the GP event had over 700 registrants. Moreover, by the time I registered at 6pm for the GP, playmat inventories were already depleted. Bummer. That’s two GP’s in a row where I missed my chance to snag an unique playmat. There’s always next time.
Grinders were firing off every few minutes, filled by players fresh off planes to already grinder-primed from a few 3rd or 4th round defeats earlier in the day. Not to miss out for a coveted set of 3-round byes, I quickly registered for a GPT piloting B/W tokens. That list was fairly similar to the list I played at Regionals, with the addition of two pithing needles main board, removing two kitchen finks. It’s an amazing card making me very reluctant to do so. However, my suspicion that I would run into a number of cascade-related decks (5cc or ‘Swans’) left me little confidence I could reliably change the board state with finks–whereas murderous redcap can take out a recently cast bloodbraid elf or force the opponent to pay to life to save his putrid leech (but in cases of a surprise zealous persecution, forcing the life-loss and the death of putrid leech. A very profitable exchange. I also felt that having two pithing needles would increase my first game odds against those decks. I also reasoned that there were no decks immune to the pithing needle since many, many decks are running cards like treetop village, figure of destiny and ajani. In addition to three path to exile and keeping the runed halo at two of as well as 3x celestial purgein the sideboard allowed me to access potentially 11 ways of shutting down cascade decks. In the end, I lost in the semi-final match (round 3), losing to–dun, dun, dun…–5 color cascade! doh.
At that point in the evening, more friends from SF arrived. Lucky for me a few of these friends have many more years of competitive experience than myself and having caught most of my round 3 games, were able to discuss alternatives as well as teaks to my deck.
So, returning to the original B/W tokens list I ran at Regionals, I made the following changes: add more hand disruption main deck. Specifically, two times thoughtseize, dropping the pithing needle back to sideboard. Deciding that generally finks is a very, very useful card close to on-par with murderous redcaps, we decided that I should run at least three finks and three murderous redcaps.
Here’s the full list:
Versus Bant-Agro. Should be aka Shorecrasher’s Finest Hour or Rafiq’s a B.
Anyway, this matchup has been consistently poor for me. The speed with which this deck is able to not only catapult to 40+ life and reduce me to zero is ridiculous. Game one his team consisted of Rafiq, the Warmonk and Wiltleaf Leige. His life total ends at 49 meanwhile mine goes from 3 to 5 to 7 to zero. Finks to the rescue but he didn’t buy enough time.
Game two was significantly faster than the first. I removed his first 5/3 shorecrasher mimic with a path to exile but had no answers for the one he dropped on turn 3 to activate his turn 2 drop. Before attacking he also dropped a noble heirarch to provide even more exalted-powered pain. (Luckily I path’d the 6/4). My notes have my life total jumping from 18 to 5. How? finest hour turn 4. To round it off the punishment, he drops a jhessian infiltrator turn 5 along with another Finest Hour. With no answers in hand, the rounded ended on match two. The only note about this matchup is that game two I mulligan to 5, looking to have an opening hand with answers to what I suspected would be a fast matchup. The one mistake is probably playing the path to exile early in the match. I probably should have waited for when either the shorecrasher was attacking in for lethal rather than an early “6″. Afterall, it is only 6, not 13.
Versus Blightening Beatdown
Game one goes to me where an early tidehollow sculler reveals an auntie’s hovel, blightening, boggart ram-gang,flame javelin and incinerate. My notes indicate the game wasn’t going well for my opponent, seeing as though he felt compelled to banefire a spirit token to buy time.
Game two went in his favor, powered by two ram-gangs, two hellsparks and plenty of burn.
Game three I did pull out ahead but my notes indicate a fairly serious play mistake where I should have played a finks over an ajani because a fallout to reduce finks in size could next turn be negated with the +1/+1 ability of ajani. Moreover, by having no blockers for ajani, he was quickly taken down by a fallout and hellspark (5, which is what the gaining 2 life ability gets after a fresh cast). Nonetheless, I pulled out the win.
Versus B/G Elves aka, I only run a couple, non-game-winning elves but round my changelings off to elves since they count too.
Game one goes to me, definitly related to his mulligan to 5 and my first turn thoughtseize –revealed two profane command[card] and one [card]rhen’s vanquisher–and two lands. I took the vanquisher. Despite a top-decked thoughtseize nabbing my bitter blossom, I quickly dropped him from 20 to zero.
Game two, he’s able to defeat me handily without me doing much damage at all. I did thoughtseize, which revealed two maelstrom pulse, redcap, and chameleon colossus. One pulse to my bitter blossom, a redcap to a token and a super-size changling were too much.
Game three was extremely tight with me taking the early game by skyrocketing to a whopping 27 life before he began stabilizing with cloudthresher. This game went to time. We entered turns with the full 50 minutes elapsing. Despite efforts on both our parts to balance the 5 turn clock and our precarious positions (he wasn’t able to attack in with thresher nor I positioned to resist his two colossus and attack in with enough force to win, we were poised to tie. Luckily for me, my opponent conceded on turn four telling me that regardless of whether he won or drew, he was going to have to leave early so he’d rather I get the win since it was so close anyway. Very considerate and appreciated.
2-1-0 (vs. 1-1-1 which it was shaping out to be)
Versus 5 color cascade, featuring bloodbraid elves, bituminous blast, and anathemancer.
Game one goes to him. Turn one thoughtseize revealed cryptic command, anathemancer, bituminous blast, and mulldrifter (in addition to his lands). A bit disappointing but I knew it could be a tough matchup considering immense array of two-for-one/card-replenishment naturally built into this deck.
Game two, I had consistently played around his strengths developing a fairly strong board position. I was poised to win, primarily because of an early game bitterblossom that remained in play the entire match. This it turns out was my ultimate downfall. Toward the end of the match, my opponent drops two anathemancers on the same turn, reducing my lifetotal from 11 to six. Next turn I could swing in putting me in the tempo-lead. Right? Wrong. Forgot to add in the life loss from my bitter blossom. He swings for 4, I leave them unblocked since blocking one with my anthem-beefed faerie token would kill his anathemancer, allowing him to unearth it same turn for the kill (that card doesn’t need to ever attack. It just needs to be put in play).
Not feeling too great about my chances, I tried to maintain a positive, confident outlook, knowing that though extremely difficult, I could duke-out the next 5 rounds for a day-two spot.
It was going to come down to my matchups.
R/G. No black. No figure of destiny.
This was looking good.
Game one goes to me. He revealed his hand at the end of game one to show three lands in hand. My life total never dropped below 11, often climbing back toward 15 with the aid of finks.
Game two I dropped a sculler on turn three to see he had a fairly weak hand consisting of a hellspark elemental and ramgang with two lands to boot.
For this matchup, I had sided out my 3 paths to exile as well as the two thoughseizes to side in 3 celestial purges and one pithing needle. it’s because at the end of the match I told him that I had put in the one pithing needle in case he was running figures of destiny and I had just not seen it game one, he told me he wans’t running them! Crazy. Because he was running tattermunge maniac in addition to his hellspark elementals, I was still happy with zealous persecutions as an effective sweeper (and fallout insurance policy).
An extremely long-winded match abbreviated to prevent over analysis, I wasn’t able to shut down his combo in game one where he quickly filled the board with elves and drew 75% of his deck with regal force we moved to game two.
Game two was significantly closer for me. I sidded in an additional zealous persecution since I can quickly eliminate 80% of his board (lanowar elves and heritage druid being good examples). I was able to pull off a board sweep using zealous persecution only to find him top-deck another heritage druid the next turn. He promptly cast a Mycolth devouring his 2 sentinels and freshly cast heritage druid. That left a 10/10 mycoloth spitting out 6 tokens per turn. Luckily I was able to build up a small token team, swing in for six (glorious anthem on board + 3x spectral tokens) and then wrath of god from under a heights. The board looked to be swinging in my direction. In fact, with his combo-based shenanigans–namely the mycoloth and the upteen tokens he’d made–he brought my life total down to 3 (I had gotten as high as 24 w/ a finks). I had indeed gained board control but it was to be short-lived. He plays a primal command to gain 7 life and search his library for a Cloudthresher, he passed the turn. I swung in with the team, figuring I would have time to re-build the army after he brought the thresher into play next turn.
Next turn comes and he passes back to me without playing the thresher. “Okay, he’s just going to do it after I declare attackers. Makes sense.” He plays thresher, I take two, lose my board. During his upkeep, he plays another thresher taking me from 1 to zero in one flash-powered spell. Very flashy.
Rather than spin my wheels all day, I dropped from Grand Prix Seattle so I could watch other matches in the GP and potentially sign up for another tournament. I ended up watching a number of other great matchups, including LSV, Saito, Nassif and more. By the time the 9pm Sealed event (everyone vying for an ipod touch), I was exhausted and hungry. After only a few hours of sleep the last few days including one night on the floor of a hotel room after trying to find a place still serving food in Tacoma after midnight, I was ready to call it a night. I also decided at that point to not play in the PTQ–which ultimately had over 300 players–so I could play in the extended tournament hte next day.
The prize pool for the Extended tournament changed from an xBox 360 to an ipod nano due to registration numbers, but featured heavy weights Gerry Thompson and Bill Starks.
There turned out to be a few bumps along the way, but by the fourth round I was still undefeated. As were Starks and Thompson who were (luckily for me) plaired against eachother. Unfortunately, I punted the last match with poor sideboard choice and ended in 4th place with a 3-1 record.
I’m also happy to report that I’m the new owner of a mint richard garfield phd signed and “marked” by richard garfield himself. I also thanked him for creating such an amazing game.
I do want to thank Tim and the rest of his team with Cascade Events for hosting the tournament and a special thanks to the judges who did an amazing job at keeping the tournaments running smoothly.
Hope to see everyone out there next time. Let’s make it 3000 players at Boston!